Two separate companies that manufacture state-of-the-art irrigation efficiency technology have approached me and lamented the difficulty of working in California, where they feel irrigation districts and farm lobbyists work to hinder efforts to improve efficiency, rather than help farmers seeking to improve water use.I agree with these folks most of the time, but on this issue I really believe they are not right. There are too many reports, models and studies out there that conclude the exact opposite - an increase of consumptive water use upon the adoption of such technology.
Pfeiffer & Lin (University of California, Davis); Samani and Skaggs (New Mexico State University); Amosson & Almos & Golden (Ogallala Aquifer Initiative); Kendy (Montana Hydrogelologist); Bredehoeft (1997); and others have all come to the same conclusion - increased water use efficiency increases consumptive water use. It's not the technology that makes this happen, but the inability of the water managers to recognize it and compensate appropriately. Of course any mandated reduction in irrigated areas, or mandatory cropping restrictions, or irrigation scheduling needed to offset the reduced recharge and higher CU will have economic, social and legal consequences, but these are easy to get by, right? Probably NOT. Anyway, I hope we don't pin our future water supply hopes too much on improved irrigation technology until we're sure of the sacrifices needed to accomplish it.